[-empyre-] empyre subscribers...this is the last day to post your projects, bios, interests!!

Cynthia Beth Rubin cbr at cbrubin.net
Mon Jul 1 05:47:59 EST 2013

HI All

Much to my regret, I have turned into more of a lurker than a contributor.  The discourse moves fast, and often by the time I have my thoughts together it has moved on.  Reading who is on this wonderful list (thanks Tim and Renate) inspires me, and perhaps those of us who might be a bit out of sync might just go ahead and post more in the future.

I am an early adopter of digital imaging, making the transition from painting to digital medial from 1984 - 1988.  By 1988 the paints went into a box (where they remain, in whatever state . . . ) but I continue to think like a painter trained in the era of Abstract Expressionism.  Process gives rise to the imagery, the inter-twining of gestures, photos, representation and non-representation.  I have made some successful videos (computer animations...) but I do not story board.  They come from the abstract painter's way of thinking --do your research,  gather your sources, mix it all together, and dig your way out of the mess into a new synthesis of imagery and insights.

Digital imaging has informed my artistic development, as my work developed in sync with the technology.  Before practical scanning, my work was focused on compositional structure and the power of repetitive patterns, which was what I was already exploring in my painting by cutting stencils, and was heavily influenced by Persian and Indian painting and the interweaving of image and text in a non-Western space.  Turning to sources outside of the usual painting heros was a personal political choice, and the interest in the inter-weaving of different kinds of information also came from studying Hegel while in grad school at the Maryland Institute / Johns Hopkins (where I met Tim Murray).

Around 1987 I discovered the Hebrew manuscript tradition, which coincided with interweaving of text, commentary, and decor - with commentary often taking the form of animals and flowers.  Scanning in black and white (not grayscale, but black and white) allowed me to work more closely with compositional motifs, so that by the time that grayscale scanning came along and I had discovered that the Hebrew manuscripts referred to "place" as much as text, I was ready to use photographic material to infuse the images with my photographs of towers and arches and all kinds of decor.  

Place took over as the overriding focus as accurate scanning and later digital photography came on the scene.  I tried to imagine the thoughts and feelings associated with Cultural Heritage, using the inter-weaving of imagery to get past the documentation of the vestiges of history and into the spirit of the lives of those who went before.  One of my best known works from that period is the video les affinités recouvrées  based on Jewish Morocco  (music by Atau Tanaka - who undertook similarly interesting research of his own)

Another important work is the inter-active installation which I did in collaboration with the composer Bob Gluck.  In Layered HIstories: the Wandering Bible of Marseilles" we explored both the concepts of place and the compositional motifs of a Hebrew Bible produced in Spain in 1260, putting the viewer in the position of exploring the overlaps in historical Sacred Object and historical Memory of place.

Teaching part-time at the Rhode Island School of Design led my work to take an unexpected turn.  For many years I have been teaching "Digital Nature."  I am now artist in residence in the Menden-Deuer lab of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island.  Although I know that plankton do not have feelings, I am working to bring some of the same wonder of deep human connection that we feel in Cultural Heritage projects to the ways in which we represent and relate to the smallest part of our food chain.  Some of this work will be at SIGGRAPH this year - come see it!


Finally, on the Community front: I served on the Board of ISEA for about 10 years, and was vice-president for a bit until I decided that we did not really need a vice-president on such a small board.  I have just been appointed to a 3 year term a the Chair of the Digital Arts Community of ACM-SIGGRAPH, and I urge you all to join our group site to post your work.

I also have worked with other artists to organize some artist-organized exhibitions, most notably the Cultural Heritage Artists Project for the Orchard Street Shul, which included notable contributions and hard work by some of incredible people who are on this list (Nancy Austin, Christina Spiesel, Greg Garvey, Jeanne Criscola, lots of advice from Patrick Lichty many others who may be on the list but I do not know it....)

Thanks to all of my collaborators along the way.  I love the empyre list because it reinforces the idea that we are all in this together!

best wishes,

Cynthia Beth Rubin

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